How do you design a successful website for your business?
It’s an important question for any business since your website will serve as the face of your company, inviting customers to find out more about you and your products and services, and prompting potential clients to contact you directly.
When it comes to designing your website, there are several things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure that it’s successful, such as your user experience (UX), use of calls-to-action (CTA's) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This is all because the design and functionality of your website will determine whether or not potential customers stay on your site.
Whether you have been thinking about creating a website or have already started designing one, these 10 tips can help you ensure your website is successful.
1) Choose the right platform
Before you can start designing, you have to decide what kind of platform you’re going to build your website on. WordPress and Squarespace are both popular options that provide affordable, easy-to-use templates—but they’re not necessarily right for every business. There are a few distinct options; you have a completely custom HTML website, a drag-and-drop editor (like Squarespace) or something in between the two, such as Webflow.
This decision will depend a lot on whether you or your team intend to build the website yourself or have a professional do it, and if you choose the DIY route, what your skill level is like.
It's also important to think about your goals when making this decision; do you want a site that allows you to do a lot of customisations? Or are you just looking for something simple? For example, if you need to update your content regularly or upload regular blogs you will need something that has a Content Management System (CMS) in the back end. You could also consider what platforms your competitors have already chosen? Keep all of these things in mind, and look into each platform's strengths and weaknesses before settling on a final option.
2) Create user personas
As a general rule, most businesses should have at least one persona representing their primary target audience. This is often your best customer (the buyer or user who's going to purchase or use your product).
You should try to define your personas as specifically as possible: where they live, what they do for work, what their hobbies are, how old they are and so on. The more you know about these people and what makes them tick, the better you'll be able to tailor your website experience, messaging and content. And although it can be tempting to create a handful of really detailed personas, it's best to aim for two or three at most; any more than that will probably end up confusing you more than anything else.
The importance of user personas in web design is huge! The closer you can get to mimicking your users’ behaviours, needs and wants when you're designing your website, the easier for you and your team to produce a quality end product. You'll be creating a digital experience that feels like it was tailor-made for each individual visitor.
Below you can see WorkingMouse's process for Web Design and how the 'Understand' phase at the beginning is critical for the success overall.
3) Offer value upfront
Based on your user personas, figure out what kind of information your visitors are looking for and put it front and centre. Don’t be tempted to use your website as a showcase for all your work on the homepage, or you will overwhelm your visitors. Keep it simple: choose one main purpose for your website, whether that’s showcasing some select images from past projects or selling an online course. Presenting too much information can make it difficult for users to find exactly what they’re looking for (the value piece), while also making your website feel cluttered and overwhelming.
Presenting value upfront on your website will also ensure that users remain engaged since it prevents them from immediately clicking away once they’ve had a quick glance at what you’re offering. You want them to stick around and find out just how awesome your products or services are!
You may find The Lean UX Canvas helpful to identify your user and business needs.
4) Keep it simple
You want a successful website, right? Then you should probably make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for. That’s not just my opinion, it’s right there in the data. According to a study by Google, 53% of visitors will leave your mobile site if your page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Another report found that 88% of visitors won’t revisit sites that they’ve had a negative experience with (read: are frustrating or difficult to navigate).
The proof is in the pudding with this one, folks.
Keep your design simple and use clear navigation so that visitors can find what they need to (quickly) and then get back to looking up kale salad recipes.
5) Use high-quality images and video
Whether you’re blogging about your latest product release or writing a landing page for an email campaign, using high-quality images and video is an effective way to get your point across. Consumers these days are inundated with content. If they see that your website isn’t running at full steam, they’ll quickly move on—which means fewer leads, fewer clicks, and ultimately lower sales.
It's always best to include high-quality, custom photos and videos, but there are lots of alternatives where small businesses can find images if they don’t have the means of creating their own. Places like Unsplash and Pexels supply copyright-free images (and video!) for this exact purpose. It’s also worth noting that high-quality doesn't have to mean 50MB per image either (because this will greatly impact the performance and load-time of your website). There are plenty of ways to quickly resize & optimise your images, without pixelating them (you could use a free online service such as tinypng!)
6) Grab attention with design elements
As you’re putting together your site, think about ways that you can use elements of design to capture and keep your readers’ attention. Emphasise keywords with colours, icons, or other graphical elements that get your readers’ eyes where you want them. Remember too that getting people onto your site is only half of your job; keeping them there is just as important.
Use plenty of headers and subheaders throughout to break up text so it doesn’t become an unreadable wall of information. Short paragraphs make for easy reading and encourage a user to stick around a little longer. People read differently online than they do in print magazines or books, so break up walls of text with lists, bulleted points, images and anything else you think will help you keep readers' attention.
And if you ever want things on your website or blog design clickable, make sure they look like they are clickable so users know what kind of behaviour is expected from them. A visit to your website shouldn’t feel like work.
7) Write an engaging headline
Create an engaging headline that compels your visitors to read on. Don’t just write, 'Software Development Agency'. That is too vague and doesn’t grab readers’ attention like 'Creating successful software products that take your business to the next level' does! This will help people click through and read more of your content.
The point of an online business is traffic and inbound links, so you want them interested enough in what you have to say that they keep reading. A dull or confusing headline could drive away potential readers and maybe even hurt your SEO scores (which search engines use to rank web pages - we'll talk about this more later). If you capture their interest right away with a compelling headline, then they are far more likely to stay on your website and engage with more of your content.
8) Provide clear calls to action
One of your main goals as a website owner is probably to make money, but that can't happen if people don't take action when they visit your site. A clear call-to-action (CTA) is essential for getting your visitors to do what you want them to do.
Include CTAs above-the-fold (in the area of the screen visible before you begin scrolling) so new visitors immediately know how to engage with your website. For example, if you want them to sign up for a newsletter, offer an 'Email me updates' CTA. If you want them to download an eBook or whitepaper, you could include links directly to these resources below your primary image.
It's not always easy balancing gaining interest and avoiding spammy links and pop-ups, but keep at it because each time someone clicks through on one of your CTAs it's another potential lead who's just a little bit closer to becoming a customer!
9) Test conversions
When designing a website, one of your top priorities should be making sure that potential customers can convert on it. This means ensuring that your site is well-optimised for conversions and that it's built around goals such as lead generation or sales. Once you’ve identified your goals, make sure you're following best practices for creating conversion-focused web pages. Then it's time to test them!
You can test your conversions by building an A/B test into your website (or at least finding a tool that does, such as HubSpot). The exact nature of these tests depends on what kind of goal you have in mind but generally speaking, an A/B test simply compares two different versions of a page (e.g., different colours, calls to action, copy) to determine which performs better. These tests are easy and inexpensive ways to find out what works best with your audience. There's no better way to understand if what you've designed works than actually seeing how people interact with it in real life!
10) Use SEO tools effectively
A solid foundation of search engine optimisation (SEO) knowledge is a must-have if you want your website design efforts to pay off. Even if your design is eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing, it’s not going to do you any good unless people find your site through Google and other search engines.
For best results, learn how SEO tools can be integrated into your web design workflow. When done correctly, they will help increase your site’s ranking in search rankings. If done incorrectly, however, you run the risk of being penalised by these same search engines for implementing black hat SEO tactics that aren’t allowed (and aren’t effective).
Finally, don’t forget to check for errors and test your website after you finish building it! Whatever platform you choose to build your site should have a built-in preview environment, or be able to limit access behind a password-protected wall.
Another set of eyes is always a good idea; grab a trusted friend and get them to give your site a good proofread before going live. The Internet is constantly evolving; by checking your site on various devices and browsers you can make sure that your website works correctly in all circumstances (including mobile!)
Of course, if you get an external party to build your website for you, they should provide you with User Acceptance Testing (UAT) prior to go-live.
If you want your business website to be successful, first and foremost, it needs to be designed in a way that’s intuitive for your user. Following the 10 tips explained above will help you with this and all the other considerations that are needed when designing your business website.
As stated before, websites are an integral part of any modern business strategy: they let potential customers see what you do without driving them offsite; they help potential customers find information quickly; they open up multiple opportunities for leads and sales... the list goes on.
The best part? If DIYing your website just isn't for you, our team of product designers and developers are here to help.
Book an obligation-free website strategy session with us today - you won’t regret it.